Bleeding Blue and Gray

Bleeding Blue and Gray

New display chronicles Civil War battlefield medical care and hospitals as 150th anniversary draws closer

November 9th, 2011 in Local Regional News

Nearly 150 years ago, some of the fiercest fighting of the Civil War took place in the fields and forests of Northwest Georgia.

Between mid-September and the days immediately after Thanksgiving in 1863, the blood of Union and Confederate alike stained the earth and made streams run red.

Earlier this year the Tri-State Civil War 150th Commemoration Association advised its members that highlighting unique aspects of that long ago conflict would be the best way to meet goals of educating the public and promoting tourism.

"We heeded that call," said Chris McKeever, of the Fort Oglethorpe-based 6th Cavalry Museum.

Catoosa and Walker counties agreed to focus on battlefield medical care and hospitals, she said.

The two-day Battle of Chickamauga, one of the war's bloodiest, along with the battles of Chattanooga, Ringgold Gap and Tunnel Hill, provided ample material for a multi-panel portable display to tell that tale.

Confederate hospitals peppered what is today the city of Chickamauga, including the Gordon-Lee house. The big hotel at Catoosa Springs and the Old Stone Church in Ringgold also saw service as hospitals, as did the Marsh House in LaFayette.

The second largest of Union Army hospitals during Chickamauga was located at Cloud Spring (near the intersection of Old LaFayette Road and White Street and close to today's Blood Assurance office).

"This is something that links the past to our present," McKeever said.

Connie Huddleston, historic preservation consultant and designer of interpretive materials for parks and museums, was contracted to develop the display.

When asked about the multi-panel display, Huddleston said she aimed to appeal to a wide variety of people.

"Usually about one in six will read everything," she wrote in an email last week. "Some will focus simply on the images, others will gravitate to the medical instruments, the gory stuff, but I think anyone who takes the time to read the personal stories will be wowed with reading those first person words.

"They will also remember these stories more than the statistics of numbers of injured and killed. Personal stories of real people on the battlefield and in the hospitals are usually what we remember as we can relate and learn."

The display, prepared at a cost of about $10,000, will have its public unveiling at the "Gone With the Wind" ball following this year's Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon.

The project is funded by a matching grant of up to $2,500 from the Modern Woodmen of America and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council and the Walker County Office of Economic Development. Funds were also provided by the cities of Rossville, Fort Oglethorpe, Chickamauga and LaFayette, by the Rossville Development Authority, the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Walker County Government and the 6th Cavalry Museum.

Additional funds are being raised by the sale of tickets for a hand-sewn quilt that will be raffled at the Gordon-Lee Mansion, site of the "Gone With the Wind" ball the evening of Nov. 12.

In addition to the exhibit, two traveling trunks have been prepared to bring this story of Civil War-era medicine into local schools.

Huddleston collected additional material into a portable program that meets curriculum guidelines for fifth- and eighth-grade classes. Lessons will focus on reading comprehension, vocabulary, research projects, map reading, drama and science.

Primary source use will be emphasized in readings and historic images; firsthand accounts and modern educational materials will be provided in each trunk. The trunks will also include a replica nurse's apron, kepis (the 19th century version of a baseball or fatigue cap that was worn by both Union and Confederate troops) and medical-related replicas suitable for discussion and display.

When not in transit or on loan, the four-panel exhibit and the educational trunks will be displayed at the 6th Cavalry Museum.

"I'd like to think schools could take field trips to the museum," McKeever said. "But if they can't, the trunks are like a field trip in a box."